Public Speaking is a Risk

Did you ever have a really bad public speaking experience? For example,

  • Did you ever forget what you wanted to say?
  • Did you ever get lost, or stuck in traffic en route, and arrive too late?
  • Did you ever have trouble speaking because you were so nervous?
  • Did the equipment ever stop working and leave you in the lurch?
  • Did the audience ever ask questions you couldn’t answer?
  • Did you ever lose a speech contest?
  • Did you ever get negative feedback?
  • Did you ever get laughed at?
  • Did you ever miss out on a sale or business opportunity or contract or job because of a bad presentation?
  • Did you ever think that you were not cut out to be a public speaker?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, congratulations. You’re in good company.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Public speaking is a risk.

Every time we stand up in front of others, we are taking a risk. Things can, and do, go wrong. We can get hurt in the process. Sometimes a little, sometimes more than a little. It’s part of the deal; it’s part of the process; it’s part of the price of admission.

If you’ve never had a bad public speaking experience, chances are you haven’t done much public speaking. If you want to improve, there is only one real way and that is to speak. And if you speak, you will certainly have setbacks. You can’t avoid them forever.

However, the critical part is what you do after the setback. Watch the video again and imagine what a shame it would have been if the talented people who are featured had given up in the face of their own setbacks.

Public speaking is a risk. Just like life. But if you persevere, the rewards are tremendous.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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12 Responses to Public Speaking is a Risk

  1. Pingback: Five Lessons from Michael Bay’s “Meltdown” : Spectacular Speaking Warsaw 2014

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  3. “If you want to improve, there is only one real way and that is to speak. And if you speak, you will certainly have setbacks. You can’t avoid them forever.”

    I totally agree with this sentence, I also had stage-fright sometimes, but now I’m finally get over it. 🙂

    BTW I also have a blog on the topic, click my name. 🙂

    • John Zimmer says:

      Many thanks for the comment. Glad that you have overcome your stage-fright. It’s something that we all have to deal with at one time or another. Congratulations as well for your blog. I will be sure to check it out.


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  6. chris daly says:

    Hi John, love your work. I was in a new city once looking for a flat and a job. At one flat I was told that to have any chance of winning the position i would have to go to a rehearsal of an experimental musical group to their show “Love Trilogy”, since most of the flat were in it.

    I went along and at a break the producer asked me what part I was playing. When I said I wasn’t he made me in charge of the main spotlight and show host as well. So I had to introduce the show, race the ladder to the main spotlight then down again for each act and at half time.

    The pressure must have got to me as I raced down the ladder and was behind the curtain to introduce the next act with not a thing in my head. I didn’t remember what I had to say or for that matter where I was or what was going on. My mind was a complete blank and all I felt was the fear of going beyond that curtain. The time came and someone pushed me out and the words just came out. When the show was over I felt the greatest relief I have ever felt.

    I suppose I just lost it. Oh, no I didn’t get the flat.

    What I gained from this experience is that I have been there, and the experience has made me braver, I didn’t die and life went on.

    Hey John I loved your speeches on youtube; the argument with the wife evaluation, the Arnie one and the Ski one. Have you posted any more since?

    Cheers, Chris

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks for the comment, Chris. Great story! Talk about pressure without having been able to prepare! A character-building exercise to be sure.

      Thanks for the comments about the blog and the videos. I’m not sure about the “Ski” video, but I think that you might be referring to the terrific speech by Andy Dooley. I had nothing to do with it but I have watched it several times as it is an excellent example of a humorous speech with a serious message. I have a few other things floating around on YouTube. For a more serious speech, I did one a couple of years back called “Crossing No Man’s Land“. Hope you like it.



  7. Great messages here, John.

    Failure gets a bad rap and we should be embracing it.

    Question to all: “Did you learn more from something you “failed” at or something that went 100% correctly the first time you did it?”

    Of course, you learned more from your “failures.”

    Perhaps it’s a mindset. If we think of things as “experiments” we won’t think of the outcome as a failure. Edison, so the story goes, experimented and successfully found over 9,000 ways the to invent the light bulb that did NOT work. He got closer to the end result each time.

    We don’t expect “experiments” to always give great outcomes.

    Thanks for the reminders of the benefits of risk and failure, John.

    Go BIG or Go Home!

    • John Zimmer says:

      Great comment, Fred. Thanks very much for weighing in on the discussion. Embracing failures and learning from them is a key step along the road to success.



  8. Were you ever met with (just) silence right after a non-rhetorical question? Did you ever get an audience member say “that was tiring” right after you finished?

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